Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Drank German Wine and it was Awesome

Because much of what actually happens in the world is random and unpredictable, after years of drinking essentially no mature German Riesling, in the past few weeks I've had maybe 20 mature wines. This is due to the generosity of friends - dinners and things like that. What I'm about to tell you might be old news to you, but WHOA, these wines can be great.

When the wines are great, what really gets me is the seamless combination of impossibly wispy delicacy and focused pungency. How can a wine be so incredibly delicate and wispy, and yet so powerful? Well, some wines can do both. The power and lightness idea is not new to me, but it feels like it might reach its apex with some of these old wines. Here are a couple from the past few weeks that really blew me away:

1990 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese. Hard to describe my experience with this wine without gushing over. The wine was shocking, stunning really. Lacy, airy, like gauze. Like the sheer cotton cloth that might have been draped over Ghandi's shoulder against the hot Delhi sun. Seriously though, this wine was ridiculous. Such a delicate touch on the palate, the texture is simply not one I have experienced before. And the aromas, although articulate and clear, were quite a contrast in their intensity and power. We drank this wine with salmon sashimi, among other things, and for me it was a real eye-opener. Before this bottle I had drunk exactly one bottle of Egon Müller's wine in my life. I had no context for this wine, and when I asked about Müller, the first thing my experienced and knowledgeable dining companions told me about Egon Müller is that the estate is the DRC of German Riesling.

The following week I was lucky enough to attend a dinner featuring a slew of 1997 German Rieslings and I was able to drink two more wines by Egon Müller. I thought they were both truly excellent, again showcasing that startling contrast between lightness and power. The 1997 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett was a wonderful wine, so graceful, such depth.

1997 Egon Müller/Le Gallais Wiltinger Braune Kupp Riesling Auslese Auction. So I don't really know what's going on here, but I think Wiltinger Braune Kupp is a different site. And I cannot remember what "Auction" refers to, I'm sorry to say. Perhaps someone will explain in the comments. But whoa, this wine was great. I would love to drink the same mature wine at different pradikat levels one day to try to understand how they compare with one another. I'm sure there is a ton of residual sugar in this wine, but it was so perfectly balanced and focused that even in this ripe vintage, the impression of the wine is not one of sweetness.

Willi Schaefer has to be one of the finest producers whose wines I can actually afford. In the past month I experienced some mature examples of his wines and whoa, I am very impressed. Several wines form the 2001 vintage and two from the 1997 vintage. All were compellingly delicious.

1997 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett. Seriously? The new vintage sells for under $25. This wine had to cost less than that. And now, 15 years later, it's really this good? Clearly on the same level of quality, in my rather thin and uninformed book, as the Egon Müller wines. I loved the grace and delicacy of this wine, and its tingly acidity and overall vividness.

And since I'm kvelling about German wines, I have to tell you about the most exciting red wine I've had in some time.

2009 Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir Muschelkalk, $55, Imported by Mosel Wine Merchant. Dan Melia gave this to me as a present before he left town. I assumed it was the entry level Pinot. I was wrong - it is made from a .6 hectare plot of 60+ year old vines and it is a rare and special thing. If you can read German, the Enderle & Moll website might be helpful. I drank the wine over three days and it was delicious immediately, showing vivid wild cherry flavors and excellent balance. But it was days two and three when the wine showed all of itself. The fruit is still vivid but more complex now, and the mineral expression on the finish became an integral aspect of the wine, with iron and dark smokey earthy notes. The wine really is wonderfully balanced and graceful, and it offers all of the pleasures of great Pinot Noir. In fact, in my humble opinion, this wine at $55 offers as much or more than almost anything I can think of at that price point in Burgundy red wine. This is one to buy, if you can find it.


Chris Ager said...

Willi Schaefer has to be one of the most under-valued wine producers period, and they're not exactly unknown. Every bottle that I have from them--regardless of price point--is silly.

Long live German wine.

AngelaTCarlson said...

As a member of the SF chapter of the German Wine Society, I've been fortunate enough to try a number of excellent aged Rieslings. There is nothing in the world like them and more folks should experience the wonder that is Riesling so they'd know it's not "just a sweet wine".

Lars Carlberg said...

Wiltinger braune Kupp from Le Gallais is indeed a different site. It rises directly above the Saar River on a curve and is a mix of red and gray slate. Scharzhofberger, on the other hand, is a more weathered gray slate. It lies higher up in a cooler, windier side valley. "Auction" means that the wine was offered at the traditional VDP (Grosser Ring) auction in Trier in late September.

Egon Müller and Willi Schaefer are indeed two of the finest producers of fruity to nobly sweet Mosel wine.

I'm glad that Dan gave you a bottle of Enderle & Moll's 2009 Pinot Noir Muschelkalk (shell limestone). They're great guys making very good wines in Baden.

Anonymous said...

Back in February I was fortunate to taste through wines of the 2010 vintage with the DC German Wine Society. It was my first experience with Egon Muller. I fell in love with the 2010 Egon Mulller, Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett. How cool that you got to taste the 1990 Spatlese!

Best, Aaron